Padmanabhapuram palace is one of the beautiful and elegant Palaces. It is located near Thiruvananthapuram, at the bottom of the Valli Hills of the Western Ghats, near a small town called Thackalay which is 2 Km from Padmanabhapuram. Valli River flows nearby this Palace. Earlier the palace was known as Kalkkulam palace.
Padmanabhapuram Palace is very popular for its Kerala style of architecture. It is known as the largest wooden castle in Asia. This Palace was the brawny of the rulers of Travancore until 1790. It is well known for its interiors, wooden carvings, architecture etc.
Due to the quirky results of the 1956 reorganization of Indian States along Linguistic lines, the Padmanabhapuram palace is today administered by the Kerala government s Department of Archeology, even though it is located in Tamil Nadu. The palace is a Kerala architectural masterpiece with exquisite mural paintings and sculpture.
Features of Padmanabhapuram palace:
The entrance to the main building is through a decorative gateway which is called as Padippura. At the entrance you will see a wooden ceiling of the poomukham (entrance way), decorated with 90 various flowers in full bloom. Two horse riders made out of wood, welcome the visitors to the poomukham or entrance hall. The most interesting and remarkable feature of the poomukham is a clock tower, which is considered as one of the oldest clock towers since 1832 A.D in India which is still functioning.
Mantrasala (King’s Council Chamber):
On the first floor of the entrance hall, Mantrasala room is located in the Padmanabhapuram Palace where the King used to have consultations with his Ministers. It is a beautiful structure decorated with colored mica windows which keep the dust and heat away and elegant latticework can be seen all around the chamber. The flooring of the chamber is done with the mixture of burnt coconut shells, egg white, etc. in dark color. This room is also called as King’s Council Chamber.
Thai Kottram (Mother’s palace):
Thai Kottram is the oldest construction designed in Kerala style in the entire Padmanabhapuram Palace. It is also known as Mother’s Palace. There is an inner courtyard called ‘Nalukettu’, which has sloping roofs with all the four sides tapered down. The roof is supported by four pillars on four corners.
Ekantha mandapam (Chamber of solitude):
On the South-west corner of the Mother’s Palace, there is a small room known as ‘Ekantha mandapam’ or chamber of solitude. All around the Ekantha Mandapam are magnificent wood carvings of every description, of which the most beautiful interesting one is the pillar of single Jackfruit wood with excellent floral design carvings.
Nataksala (Hall of Performance):
Nataksala is the new construction, built in the year 1829-1846 at the command of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, who reigned in Travancore. He was a great cognoscente of fine arts, music and dance. He composed a classical Carnatic music by himself and left a rich legacy. The Nataksala or Hall of Performance has solid granite pillars and bright black floor. To sit and watch the performances, there is a wooden enclosure with peepholes for the Royal household.
Upparikka Maliga (Central Building):
At the center of the Padmanabhapuram Palace the four storied building is located. To worship God, the top floor (Upparikka Maliga) was used by Royal household. The walls of the Upparikka Maliga are covered with the 18th century murals, Puranas scenes and also the social life of Travancore scenes of that period. Below the worship chambers there are many rooms which include King’s Bedroom. The ornamental bedstead of the King made of 64 varieties of herbal and medicinal woods was the gift from the Dutch merchants is seen to the present day.
Thekee Kottram (Southern palace):
Outside the Padmanabhapuram Palace, to the Southern side, there is a small building named Thekee Kottram. This building was built in traditional Naluketu style with excellent architecture where Heritage Museum is housed. This building is as old as ‘Thai Kottram’. In this Museum, the collections of items give an insight into the social and cultural ethos of the Travancore period.
Oottupura is the dining hall located on the southern side of the Palace where royal family used to feed Brahmins. The 78 meters long double storied dining hall has two large halls, where 1000 people can comfortably be seated at a time.
Ambarimukhappu is the Royal balcony of the Padmanabhapuram Palace where the King used to sit and watch chariot races during festivals and give public appearances. It was shaped like an Ambari (seat used on elephant).
Navarathri Mandapam and Saraswati Temple:
At Padmanabhapuram a small shrine dedicated to Devi Saraswati, the Goddess of learning sanctum is located. The Navarathri Mandapam is located in front of the Saraswati shrine. This Mandapam has excellently carved pillars.
Other Interesting features of Padmanabhapuram palace:
• There used to be a secret passage below the Palace, through which the King and his family members along with their entourage could escape to another Charottu Kottaram palace in case of emergency, which is located 2 km from the Padmanabhapuram Palace. That passage is blocked now
• A gallery of paintings which shows the Travancore history
• A room filled with Chinese jars and all gifts by Chinese Merchants
• Royal chairs with Chinese carvings
• The 18th century, hanging brass lanterns that are lit incessantly
• The dressing room of the King’s Sister with two hanging beds
• Belgian mirrors in the ladies chambers
• Variety of weapons which are used in the war including swords and draggers